When I packed my belongings for college, I packed the rest of my room into cardboard boxes, as well. I would leave home for my first college semester, and I would say goodbye to the home in which I grew up. My parents were separating, and the timing coincided with my transition into what seemed like a nonnegotiable next step. The feeling I had, at the time, perceived as happiness had faded, and I began college as an angry and confused teenager. Bitterness and sadness deluged my mind as I entered what I was told would be the most formative years of my young adulthood.
To say their separation was painful would be a profound understatement. I said, then, it had ruined me. It had ruined my ability to love, to befriend someone new. It had ruined my ability to laugh deeply, the kind of laugh that one feels deep in his or her gut, the kind that makes one’s next breath hard to breathe.
I hadn’t yet learned that things happen, whether we want them to or not. Things happen no matter how hard we try to stop them. Things happen whether we are kind humans or cruel. Things happen whether we have found healing or continue to fight agony and shame.
Things happen. And when they do, we must pick up the pieces as best we know how. We must rebuild our lives with the same pieces that came crumbling down. We must rebuild it in our own, oftentimes muddled way.
Jared and I returned home on Friday after a weeklong trip. We met my family for some time on the beach, below the sunshine. It was the first time Jared, my sisters and I had been together in a long, long time. Hello, free therapy. It was also the first trip since my parents’ separation that I didn’t experience a return of suppressed animosity. I left feeling healthy, more peaceful than before. And although we brought home thousands of grains of white sand, spread throughout our car’s floors and seats, we also brought home with us an unfamiliar sense of reconciliation.
Families oftentimes refuse to eternally shatter. Whether we are ready to pick up the pieces or not, we realize we must. We realize we miss the ability to laugh deeply. We realize we forego immeasurable meaning by running from new relationships because we are too scared of betrayal. We realize we miss time with family, and we begin to notice we have the strength to adjust to one that has been rebuilt. We realize it’s worth it to establish something new, something meaningful, and something that reminds us of our undying perseverance as human beings. We realize it’s worth it to establish something that reminds us of our innate capacity to cast light on what was once catastrophic in order to build a life of love, health, and newfound resilience.